Retelling South Africa’s freedom stories

26 April 2012

South Africa will launch three new museums this year – including one that retells the story of the Battle of Blood River – as well as the Steve Biko Heritage Centre, to honour the memory of those who fought for the country’s freedom.

The other museums are the 1980 Matola Raid Museum in Maputo, Mozambique and a new museum at Freedom Park outside Pretoria.

The Department of Arts and Culture’s Vusithemba Ndima said this week that the museums and heritage centre would all be launched between July and November.

The 1980 Matola Raid Museum pays homage to the 17 people that died during an SA Defence Force raid on African National Congress (ANC) houses in Matola in 1980.

Construction is expected to be completed this week, and the museum should be furnished, equipped and staffed by July.

Steve Biko Heritage Centre

The Steve Biko Heritage Centre is being built at Ginsberg outside King Williams’ Town in the Eastern Cape, where the Black Consciousness pioneer was born in 1946.

The centre, which will include a museum, archive and library, training rooms and cultural performance and retail spaces, will also create economic opportunities for the local community.

Ndima said construction of the centre was about 95% complete, and its launch is scheduled for October or November.

The Battle of Blood River revisited

Ndima said phase two of the Ncome Museum in KwaZulu-Natal, which aims to tell the story of the infamous Battle of Blood River – fought between Zulu and Afrikaners in 1838 – from an African perspective, is scheduled for completion by August.

The second phase of the museum will include a multi-purpose hall to host conferences, a library, work room, curio shop and reconciliation bridge. The first phase was launched in 1998.

Ndima said a museum being constructed as part of the final phase of Freedom Park, detailing the stories of those who fought for the country’s freedom, is expected to be opened in September.

Homes, graves of liberation figures to be restored

The department, through the South African Heritage Resources Agency (Sahra), is also restoring the graves and homes of various struggle stalwarts around the country.

These include the homes of literary icons Bessie Head, Olive Schreiner and Ingrid Jonker, and of the Reverend Zaccheus Richard Mahabane, the first president-general of the ANC.

There is also a plan to turn the house of Winnie Mandela, who was exiled to Brandfort in the Free State in 1977, into a museum. The Lejweleputswa District Municipality has finalised a business plan to develop the house.

Negotiations are under way with the current owners of the property of Bram Fischer – the lawyer who represented Nelson Mandela during the Rivonia Trial in 1963 – with the aim of restoring the home.

Graves that have been declared national heritage sites are those of Steve Biko; Pan African Congress (PAC) founder Robert Subukwe; John Dube, the founding president of the SA Native National Congress, the forerunner of the ANC; and former ANC leaders Pixley ka Seme, Sefako Makgatho, Josiah Gumede, Alfred Xuma, Albert Luthuli, and Oliver Tambo.

Ndima said the graves of Luthuli and Dube were in good condition, while the Sobukwe grave had been refurbished.

However, he said the site where Luthuli died was in a poor condition and the granite needed restoration, while Gumede’s grave in Pietermaritzburg also required restoration.

The Soweto house of Lillian Ngoyi, an anti-apartheid activist and the first woman elected to the ANC’s executive committee, will also be declared a heritage site after an evaluation.

Other sites which will be declared heritage sites include the site of the 1913 revolt by women in the Free State, and the site of the 1957 anti-pass revolt by women in Zeerust.

Ngquza Hill, John Dube legacy projects

While the sites of the Frontier Wars in the Eastern Cape will be developed as part of a wider National Liberation Heritage Route, Ngquza Hill – the site of the 1960 Ngquza Hill massacre of 11 Pondo tribesmen by police – and the Holy Cross Church where Oliver Tambo went to school (both near Flagstaff) will be declared heritage sites next year.

A service provider has been appointed by the department to develop a heritage centre at Ngquza Hill, and construction of the centre is expected to start in October.

Ndima said the department was also busy developing the Dube Legacy Project, following a ceremony in February to mark the restoration of John Dube’s grave site and the unveiling of a Dube statue at the launch of the Dube Tradeport at King Shaka International Airport in March.

The development of the Dube grave site will includes the construction of an interpretative centre and a Tower of Hope.

In Cape Town, Sahra will declare as a heritage site the Rocklands Seven monument where the UDF was launched in 1983, as well as the Gugulethu Seven monument in Gugulethu, with the latter to form part of a museum to be developed in collaboration with the Fawu Gugulethu Development Committee.

Union Buildings’ centenary

The department is also helping to prepare for the centenary of the Union Buildings in Pretoria in 2013.

In preparation for the celebrations, the Presidential Guest House will be renamed Sefako Makgatho House – after the second president of the ANC – while Kings House in Durban will change to John Langalibalele Dube House, and the Diplomatic Guest House to Johnstone Mfanafuthi Makhathini Guest House.

Johnstone Mfanafuthi Makhathini is a former anti-apartheid activist whose work contributed to the formation of the Organisation of African Unity – the forerunner of the African Union.

Source: BuaNews